11 October 2023

Hiring a Marketing Agency or Contractor vs. a Fractional CMO

Ever had to spin up or resource marketing operations for an organization?


If so, you’ve likely come across a few potential solutions. Maybe you’ve considered hiring an agency, a contractor or even a fractional CMO. But chances are, you’re looking to hire in the first place because you’re not a marketing specialist yourself. So how do you properly evaluate the best fit for your business?


In this blog post, we’ll cover the pros and cons of hiring different types of marketing resources, whether it’s an agency, a contractor or a fractional CMO.

Agencies and Contractors vs. Fractional Hiring: The Business Case for Each


Let’s zoom out for a moment before we dive into the details. Here’s the high level business case for each of the solutions we’ll be discussing in this blog post: 

A business case for fractional hiring vs. hiring agencies or contractors

Marketing Resourcing: Common Dilemmas 


Now, let’s talk about the context for hiring in the first place.


When it comes to allocating resources to their marketing efforts, a lot of CEOs and business leaders face a similar set of dilemmas. 


Maybe you have a limited budget and want to choose the most impactful solution. Or you’re not sure what you should do, but you know you need to do something. Often you want to hire someone who gets marketing so you can take it off your plate, so you need to trust them to get the job done, but you don’t want to be involved in the day-to-day. 


Ultimately, you want something that will drive sustainable growth and contribute to the big picture of your business, but you might not be sure how to plug marketing into this. 


In this scenario, many CEOs look into hiring an agency or contractor to help with marketing. Often, especially with a limited marketing budget, they opt for a specialized resource, like an ad agency or someone who specializes in SEO.  


While there are certainly benefits to hiring an agency to assist with marketing efforts, many business leaders aren’t sure how to assess whether it’s the right solution for their company. Read on for some key points to consider when making a resource decision.

Agencies and Contractors: Benefits and Drawbacks


Hiring an agency or a contractor can be a tempting solution to your marketing problems, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into and understand whether they are a good fit for your business. 


Agencies and contractors can be good for:
  • Building out an existing marketing program to drive your business forward
  • Leveraging your marketing to reach your growth goals 
  • Accessing specialized skills and working with the best of the best in any given space, such as SEO, social, or advertising


Hiring an agency or a contractor can also come with potential drawbacks, however:


  • They can be expensive. For growing businesses, agencies and specialized contractors might not be an accessible option, budget-wise – or they might demand an entire marketing budget while only focusing on one channel. 


  • They can be siloed from the core business. Hiring someone external means they might lack a deeper understanding of your business and its goals. 


  • Communication can be an issue. Working with someone at arm’s length can present challenges for communication, coordination, and collaboration. 


  • They tend to be biased towards specific methods or outcomes. Specialists will always recommend using their own specialty to fix a problem. It’s no surprise that ad agencies will always recommend ads and social media people will talk up the benefits of social. 


  • They can be too narrow of a solution. Being focused on one specialty means that you don’t get the benefit of additional expertise or a wider strategic picture for your overall marketing and business goals.


  • They usually require additional management. Keeping someone external in sync can be a time-sink, what with constant updates, admin and meetings. That means the mental load of marketing isn’t really being offloaded. 
work of a fractional cmo

Fractional Hiring: An Alternative Solution


While agencies or contractors won’t work for everyone, there is a hybrid solution that addresses a lot of common pain points for growing businesses that need marketing. 


It’s called fractional hiring


Think of a fractional hire as an external-internal resource. A person, or even a full team, who can embed themselves in your organization and help you find the best way forward to meet your goals. 


When it comes to marketing, hiring fractionally can get you:


  • A scalable solution. Depending on the size of your organization and budget, it’s possible to hire just a fractional CMO for marketing leadership and strategy, or a full team under the leadership of a fractional CMO who can execute the vision and handle the day-to-day operations, too. 


  • Better bang for your buck than an agency. Whereas an agency retainer might cover just one campaign or area of specialization, hiring fractionally can address multiple areas of focus or an ongoing series of projects. 


  • People who get your business. Instead of working at arm’s length, hire someone who will participate at a holistic level and contribute to the future of the business, not just a particular marketing channel. 


  • Relief from the mental load of marketing. Hiring a fractional CMO and/or a team you can trust to get the work done means that you will be able to take marketing off your plate – for good. In the event that you need to specialize further and hire an agency, they can even manage that relationship and guide the work forward for you. Or, if you have an existing but junior team that requires management, a fractional CMO can oversee and manage the do-ers. 


  • Flexibility while you grow. Fractional hiring is often more flexible than signing on with an agency. (At Crisp, all we ask for is 30 days’ notice for any cancellations.)


Team discussing business while looking at a laptop.

Looking to hire a fractional CMO or fractional marketing team to help you achieve your business growth goals?


Take a look at our services or contact us to see how we can help.